OCEAN CITY – Ocean City will be increasing its public relations campaign in 2008, reported advertising firm MGH in a Tourism Commission meeting last week.
MAGH Public Relations Account Director Chris McMurry presented the commission with a plan for the 2008 public relations campaign, providing some new ways to generate positive buzz about Ocean City.
Survey results presented to the tourism commission by MGH in November were used to guide the public relations goals of 2008. The survey results revealed some positive and negative aspects about Ocean City. Some of the positive aspects were Ocean City provides a great experience, people are likely to recommend Ocean City to their friends and family, trips to Ocean City are about tradition, and the majority of people would change nothing about their stay in Ocean City and if they did they would stay longer. Although the positives reflected well on the resort, the negatives revealed some of the disappointments that visitors are experiencing including costs in Ocean City being too high and people wanting more out of their trip to Ocean City.
McMurry reported that online chatter matches the research revealed by the surveys. By looking at online forums such as tripadvisor.com and Maryland.com, MGH was able to view candid comments about Ocean City, most of which mirrored the survey results.
“Although there are negatives, they can be flipped into positives,” McMurry said. “Negativity, online especially, often breeds more negativity, but there’s positive voices out there to match the negative ones.”
McMurry explained that, according to online users, reviews generated by fellow consumers have a greater impact than reviews generated by professionals. Furthermore, travel, hotels and restaurants are the three things that people are most likely to view a recommendation of before making a purchase.
To utilize online reviews, McMurry suggested mobilizing Ocean City loyalists to generate positive Ocean City online chatter.
McMurry suggested three main points for public relations in 2008; amplifying the Ocean City voice through websites, entering conversations and enhancing coverage in TV, radio and print media.
In order to amplify the Ocean City voice and enter conversations, MGH plans to utilize the Ocean City Ambassador Unit (OCAU), which was created last year in an effort to better assess Ocean City. McMurry suggested creating a Recommendation Forum for Ocean City, which would be fully monitored by MGH. The forum would provide various categories for people to provide discussion on and would also feature an ‘Ask the Ambassadors’ section where people could ask OC Ambassadors specific questions about the town. The ambassadors have been, and will be, selected by MGH, come from a variety of geographic areas and visit Ocean City at least 10 times a year.
“It’s someone who’s satisfied by the experience they’ve had here, it’s more of an educational process,” explained McMurry.
Although Ocean City will be spending money to promote Ocean City in the media though advertising, free promotion will also be a focus in 2008. One of the goals of the 2008 public relations campaign will be to generate positive news coverage. McMurry emphasized generating, “stories that brand Ocean City as a place worth visiting for longer than a few days.”
Mayor tours, which were done last year and featured Mayor Rick Meehan on several TV and radio spots in the DC and Baltimore area, will also continue in 2008 in an effort to create positive buzz.
MGH also suggested a season kick-off campaign that would include a partnership with a family-focused organization with the goal being showing the value of a longer vacation with family in Ocean City.